You Can't Take It With You

By dying rich, Dora Pomeranc ensured that Dade's probate court would continue to be a very lively place

Newman denied the written request. Yedwab appealed the judge's denial to the Third District Court of Appeal, and submitted an emotional brief that speculated about Newman's ties with Sam Smith and the Levinsons but failed to detail any concrete relationship. The three-judge panel responded with a terse, one-sentence ruling upholding Newman's position.

The Florida Bar was equally dismissive. On March 13 of last year Yedwab filed a complaint against Martin Levinson, based on the alleged misdeeds he had attempted to document in court. As is the Bar's practice, Levinson was sent a copy of the complaint and asked to respond to the allegations. In his subsequent letter to the Bar, Levinson described the complaint "as a transparent attempt to invalidate the will of Dora Pomeranc. . . . Each and every allegation is presently in litigation and should be resolved at a trial," he wrote.

A week later the Bar notified Yedwab that it would not investigate his complaint because it concerned matters under civil litigation. "We can't usurp the power of the civil courts," explains Arlene Sankel, assistant staff counsel for the Florida Bar.

"It seems to me the Bar has a double standard," Yedwab grumbles, pointing out that the Bar has investigated other, more prominent lawyers while they were the subject of civil lawsuits. "When they want to proceed, they proceed. When they don't, they don't. What determines their decision, I don't really know."

Newman's response to the request for a curator was equally disappointing to Yedwab. The judge reluctantly agreed to name a curator, but he severely restricted the curator's scope of action, and ordered that the curator should do nothing until the guardian submitted a final accounting. (That section of Newman's order restricting the curator's activities was later overturned by the appeals court.)

In June 1995, Yedwab reported to the Dade State Attorney's Office his suspicions that Shirley Levinson had "embezzled" money. Prosecutors steered him to the Metro-Dade Police Department's Economic Crimes Bureau, where he filed a report accusing Levinson of grand theft. The police declined to investigate after deciding that the allegations were of a civil nature.

The case is now securely back in Newman's courtroom. In May a nonjury trial will be held on the challenges to Dora's will. A hearing on the amended accountings is scheduled for July. Yedwab's clients, however, say they doubt they'll receive a fair hearing. Rose Hodges recalls a hearing she attended last year at which Yedwab laid out his allegations of embezzlement. "Newman just seemed like he was indifferent to everything," she remembers. "Here's a judge listening to an entire rundown -- checks and monies that had been taken out of Dora's account. And the judge sat there listening with a half smile on his face.

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